UP TO 20 per cent of insurance claims could be fraudulent, according to the Irish Broker’s Association.Although official numbers say that insurance claim fraud occurs in approximately seven per cent of cases, brokers suggest that in reality this figure could potentially be closer to 20 per cent it said.“In the UK there are databases that insurers can access when a proposal is submitted that allows them to see whether claims have been submitted in the past”, Brian McNelis, Director of General Services at the Irish Brokers Association told TheJournal.ie.“In Ireland, this only occurs when claims occur which leaves brokers to carry the can when the claim arises” he said. The Brokers Association is calling for a question to be added to insurance forms that will allows insurers to cross-check information with other companies and see whether there are any outstanding claims.“Dishonesty when it comes to claims is affecting all aspects of the industry be it motor, or home the cost of which is ultimately paid for by compliant honest policyholders” said Brian McNelis, Director of General Services at the Irish Brokers Association.As a result, fraudsters were pushing up the cost of insurance premiums for everyone else, he said.Health insurance set to rise – but no-one knows by how much>
YOU MAY HAVE heard the story last year of the man who used Google Earth to find his way home, 25 years after disappearing. Now, his story has been made into an ad for the product.If you’re not familiar, his name is Saroo Brierley. When he was five he fell asleep beside his brother on a train after a day of begging in Ganesh Talai, India. When he woke up, it was morning, he was alone, and the train was in an unfamiliar place.He had some tough times after that, reportedly almost drowning in the Ganges and surviving an abduction attempt, but eventually he was adopted by a couple in Australia where he still lives.Saroo never stopped looking for his family though, and eventually figured out where he came from, and found them again using Google Earth. See how he did it in this new ad. Source: Google MapsWho’s the Irish woman in the new series of The Walking Dead?>Love/Hate’s real-life garda is also in a rock band>
CONFLICTS, DISASTERS, RECORD high temperatures, an economic chill in Asia and more trouble for Justin Bieber – the upcoming Year of the Horse is set to be a dramatic one, say Hong Kong feng shui masters.With the Year of the Snake slithering into history, they say that the incoming Lunar New Year (which began yesterday) is going to be the kind of horse that you shouldn’t stand behind – because it incorporates the volatile element of fire.“With this being the Year of the Wood Horse, and with wood being very combustible, there will be a lot of scandals, conflicts, explosions and arguments,” celebrity feng-shui master Alion Yeo told AFP.Feng shui – meaning ‘wind-water’ – is influential in many parts of Asia, where people adjust their lives and even renovate offices and homes based on its edicts to maximise their luck and wealth.Yeo says that conflict in the new year could be defined by anything from diplomatic tension to armed engagement, particularly in the first, fourth and seventh lunar months – February, May and August.“The most likely thing that could lead to a physical war would be the Diaoyu Islands,” Yeo said, referring to acute tensions between Japan and China over the Japanese-controlled islets that Tokyo calls the Senkaku islands.The previous Year of the Wood Horse in 1954 was marked by nuclear bomb tests by the US and the former Soviet Union and the battle of Dien Bien Phu, which led to the defeat of French forces in Vietnam.West gallops aheadChinese fortune-telling such as feng shui is based on ancient philosophy and the belief that events are dictated by the varying balances in the five elements that make up the universe: metal, wood, water, fire and earth.The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon and through Chinese folklore ascribes 12 animals, one for each year in the rotating cycle. The horse is in the seventh position.Feng shui master Chow Hon-ming believes that while the United States and Europe will enjoy economic recovery, nations such as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Pakistan will feel a negative impact. The Western economy will see obvious improvement but Eastern nations will face difficulties and their economies may even take backward steps.Obama gaffesChow believes it will be a tricky year for US President Barack Obama, who was born in the Year of the Ox in 1961.“He may make gaffes, he may face obstacles when it comes to cutting through political red tape,” Chow said.Record-high temperatures and natural disasters will be prominent due to the influence of the fire element, according to soothsayers.“There will be a higher chance of volcanic eruption and earthquakes because the earth element will be irritated by the abundance of fire,” fortune-teller Cheng Chi-hang told AFP, adding that Japan, Indonesia and China will be particularly prone.Bad year for Bieber?A person’s fortune is calculated by using the exact time and date of his birth, with the relationship of each of the elements.Troubled Canadian pop star Justin Bieber will be on a streak of negativity this year, Yeo said.There will be times where he will not be able to control himself.Bieber, 19, was charged with driving under the influence after police caught him drag-racing in Miami Beach last week – allegedly after drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.“His fire element, if he goes all the way, could lead to health risks,” Yeo said.Well-known personalities born in the Year of the Horse include boxer Manny Pacquiao, actress Halle Berry, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the late former South African president Nelson Mandela – whose 1990 release from prison also occurred in a “horse” year.Tens of thousands of worshippers offered sticks of incense on the eve of the first day of the Lunar New Year to pray for good luck and fortune at Hong Kong’s Wong Tai Sin Temple.The former British colony is also a popular horse-racing destination, hosting the Chinese New Year Raceday tomorrow, with total payouts of up to HK$68 million ($8.76 million).The city will celebrate the new year with a 23-minute long fireworks display today, which organisers say will display the word “win” in capital letters twice.In mainland China tourism operators are also seeking to capitalise, particularly in Dan Xia Shan, a mountainous tourist attraction in the southern province of Guangdong which includes five hills known as “five horses return to the manger”.- © AFP, 2014
TWO VIABLE PIPE bombs were found in west Belfast today.The PSNI said that the discovery came during a security alert at Lenadoon Avenue in west Belfast, which has now ended.Army Technical Officers have made safe two viable pipe bomb type devices which were discovered by police following a pre-planned search in the area.The devices have been taken for forensic examination. All roads have been re-opened and residents allowed back to their homes.
More: Irish exports at highest levels since 2002 > NEW CENTRAL STATISTICS Office figures show an increase of exports by €154 million or 2.2 per cent to €7 billion from January 2013.Meanwhile, seasonally adjusted imports decreased by €69 million or -2 per cent to €3.8 billion.This resulted in an 8 per cent trade surplus of €3.1 billion.Comparing February this year with the same month last year, the value of exports decreased by 10 per cent to €6.6 billion. The main changes in the export market were decreases in the exports of medical and pharmaceutical products (-15 per cent) and organic chemicals (-18 per cent).Overall, the EU accounted for 58 per cent of total exports and America was the main non-EU destination accounting for 22 per cent of all exports in February.ImportsComparing February this year with February last year, the value of imports decreased by 2 per cent, while imports of petroleum and related materials decreased by 21 per cent.Two-thirds of imports in February came from the EU, with one-third coming from Great Britain, 9 per cent from the USA and 6 per cent from China.Read: Cost of living in Ireland rises 0.4 per cent in March >
A MOTORCYCLIST HAS died in a single-vehicle incident in Mayo earlier this morning.The incident occurred four miles outside Crossmolina at around midday.The motorcyclist, a 54-year-old female, was seriously injured in the incident and was pronounced dead at the scene.Gardaí from Ballina are investigating the incident, but initial reports suggest that the vehicle may have lost control.The N59 Crossmolina to Belmullet Road is currently closed to facilitate a forensic examination and diversions are in place.Witnesses are asked to contact Ballina Garda station 096 20560, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any Garda station.
A 5.7-MAGNITUDE quake hit off the coast of northeast Japan today, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage.The earthquake struck at 7:42 am (22.42 GMT Friday) eight kilometreseast-northeast of the city of Miyako at a depth of 44 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.The Japan Meteorological Agency measured it at 5.8 and said there was no risk of a tsunami.Japan is situated at the conjuncture of several tectonic plates and experiences a number of relatively violent quakes every year.But thanks to strict building codes, even powerful quakes that might wreak havoc in other countries frequently pass without causing much damage.In May a strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook buildings in the capital Tokyo, injuring 17 people.- © AFP, 2014Read: Swarm of earthquakes in Alaska leaves scientists puzzled>
IF YOU ARE a living, sentient human being, then chances are you don’t like your driver’s license photo.But don’t despair, because things could be a lot worse.1. At least you don’t have a pasta strainer on your head in yours Source: Imgur2. You likely don’t look like a stunned deer Source: Imgur4. …or Quasimodo Source: imgur4. …or Jerry Seinfeld Source: Imgur5. You probably don’t look as wrecked as Conan O’Brien Source: Art Brut(e)/Wordpress6. And you don’t look like you’re in the circus Source: imgur7. You didn’t opt to do your best Zoolander Source: xojane8. You’re not wearing this t-shirt Source: WorldWideInterweb9. Your license doesn’t literally read “eat ass” Source: NBC10. You didn’t accidentally leave the curlers in your hair Source: imgur11. You don’t look like you’re full after a big dinner Source: imgur12. You probably don’t look rabid Source: Photobucket13. A fly probably didn’t land on your face right as the photo was taken Source: Imgur14. And you definitely aren’t Justin Bieber Source: justinbieberpictures11/Blogspot21 animal pictures to make you crease yourself >29 things you’ll only find funny if you’re Irish >
It is clear that Netflix believes that its future is not in renting DVDs through the mail, but rather in their instant video streaming service. That belief drove the company to expand into Canada with a streaming-only service which was later followed up by a streaming-only option for U.S. subscribers. Demonstrating even more commitment is the possible $2 billion that Netflix could be spending on content costs before the end of next year. Now, it seems the latest check Netflix will be writing will be to FilmDistrict.Under a new agreement between the two companies, Netflix will stream first-run theatrical films distributed by the company. This is another coup for Netflix, because normally movies from FilmDistrict would be licensed to premium cable channels. Now those same movies will be going to Netflix and will be available to subscribers beginning in 2011.AdChoices广告FilmDistrict is not only a production and distribution company, but an acquisition and financing company as well. It was formed earlier this year by Oscar-winning producer Graham King, Tim Headington, and the company’s current CEO Peter Schlessel. Bob Berney and Adrian Alperovich later joined that company as president of film distribution and president of acquisitions and operations.Netflix Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, responded to the deal by saying:Netflix has a long and successful history working with Peter Schlessel and Bob Berney, and I have long admired Graham King’s amazing production success with movies like ‘The Departed’ and ‘Blood Diamond,’ which are among the most watched and highly rated movies of all time by Netflix members. We are thrilled to be in business with these proven tastemakers and entertainment business leaders.Two of the first films under the new deal include the crime tale Drive starring Academy Award-nominated duo Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan and the science fiction film Lockout starring Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace.Read more at Netflix.
Netflix can add another notch to its belt now that it has struck a deal with the Disney-ABC Television Group, which brings new hit television shows to the company’s instant streaming service.Hundreds of episodes from shows spanning the ABC Television Network and Disney Channel will be available including previously unavailable content from ABC Family. In addition to episodes of your favorite television series, Disney and ABC Family movies will be available including, “High School Musical,” “High School Musical 2,” “Camp Rock” and “Beauty & the Briefcase.” New movie releases will include “Avalon High,” “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam” and “Revenge of the Bridesmaids.”As part of the deal, prior season episodes, new to Netflix subscribers, will be available for shows including, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives” while some shows will make their way to the Netflix catalog for the first time including, “Brothers & Sisters,” “Scrubs” and “Reaper.”For parents, the deal means your kids will get their fill of Disney Channel favorites including “Phineas and Ferb,” “Good Luck Charlie,” “The Suite Life on Deck,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Hannah Montana” and “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” Disney-ABC will make new television episodes available for streaming 15 days after their initial broadcast.Netflix began as a DVD-by-mail rental service, but has grown to offer as an option a streaming-only service which it first launched in Canada and later made available in the United States. Currently, Netflix has 16 million members with memberships beginning at $7.99 for streaming only.Read more at Netflix
Easter is less than a week away, so what better time for Rovio to release a special Easter edition of its oh-so-popular Angry Birds than today? Available now for iOS, Android, Palm, and Symbian devices, Angry Bird Seasons is getting an Easter update. The spring-themed version includes 15 new levels with rabbit-ear-wearing piggies and decorative eggs. Customers who have already downloaded Angry Birds Seasons will get the Easter upgrade for free.Rovio really does give its customers the bang for their buck. For just $1, or free for non-Apple-users, you can get a game that continually gives you updates. Angry Birds Seasons started with its Halloween version that gave you 45 levels. Then, we went to the Christmas version that had 25 new levels. And then there were the 18 levels for both Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, meaning, there have been 106 levels in Angry Birds Seasons so far, not including the additional 15 in the Easter update bringing us to 121 levels.AdChoices广告Rovio added something at the end of its post alluding to a soon-to-be-launched “alternate reality game with Angry Birds.” The company said to be ready to “seek for clues around the world to discover the secrets hidden in Angry Birds Seasons!” We’re intrigued.Read more at Rovio, via PCMag.
Google has checked off yet another item on the list of things to do to make Chrome OS more usable by adding support for NTFS file systems in the latest stable update.That’s excellent news if you use your Acer AC700, Samsung Series 5, or Google’s own Cr-48 in tandem with a Windows system. If you got an external hard drive or flash drive (or a whole milk crate full of both) and you formatted them using Windows’ own NTFS, you can now plug them in to access photos, music, and videos on your Chromebook.Many major Linux distributions ship with NTFS support from the get-go, and it was somewhat surprising to see Chrome OS (which is built atop Linux) launch without it. Better late than never, though, right?Several other important changes were pushed as well, including support for the multimedia codecs needed to play back those music and video files. Video decoding performance has also been improved, so hopefully that Atom CPU won’t cause you any further grief if you fire up a clip. The Chrome OS connection manager has been tweaked and now gives users the option of setting preferred networks — handy if your list of SSIDs is getting a little on the lengthy side. The revamped new tab page has also arrived, bringing its app-friendly organizational magic to Chromebooks.Google’s also using the new tab page to push Music and Games apps. They’ll appear by default, though some users (presumably those who live outside the United States) have reported that the pair haven’t appeared on their Chromebooks. That’s a safe bet, since the Google Music service itself is still U.S. only.More at Google
In the middle of December last year the Raspberry Pi Foundation made a surprising announcement that not only would we see the $25 PC released in 2012, it would also be getting an expansion board–possibly joining it at launch.The expansion board is called the Gertboard, and is being developed by Broadcom employee Gert van Loo in his spare time. When completed, it will allow Raspberry Pi owners to play around with flashing LEDs, electric motors, and a range of different sensors. It effectively takes the $25 Raspberry Pi beyond just being a very cheap PC.Gert clearly didn’t take much time off during Christmas and the new year celebrations, as he’s already got the Gertboard working, albeit with limited functionality. The video below demonstrates the 12 LEDs being lit up and the board powering an electric motor more than capable of lifting something like your garage door. As these are beta boards Gert is working with, the Raspberry Pi doesn’t yet connect directly on to the Gertboard, but that should happen when the final board ships.At the rate development of the Gertboard is happening, with further progress expected as early as next week, I can definitely see this being a day-one purchase option when the Raspberry Pi finally goes up for sale. That means not only will we have access to a very cheap Linux PC, but robotics fans and anyone already hooked on Arduino will have something new and inexpensive to start experimenting with.Read more at Raspberry Pi
If you don’t count motion control, game controllers have remained quite stagnant in their development in recent years. Sony has stuck with its tried-and-tested DualShock design and seen sense by adding a second thumbstick to the PS Vita, Microsoft tweaked its Xbox controller for the 360, and Nintendo has for the most part stuck with what works, although that 3DS add-on stick (Circle Pad Pro) shows they forgot something when designing the handheld. When it comes to feeding back information to the player, we still rely on a vibration unit inside the controller. It can “beat” in many different ways, but is quite limited if you want to give a very specific response to what’s happening in any given game.A team of engineers at the University of Utah think they can do better, and have developed a new tactile feedback thumbpad of sorts. If used as part of a game controller, it will supplement vibration feedback by stretching the user’s skin on their thumb tips in very specific ways. The thumbpads actually take the form of nubs that are not dissimilar to the red TrackPoint found on Thinkpad laptops. The difference here is the nubs can move on their own, stretching the skin on the thumb that wrests on each one. In so doing, different stretches and pulls can be used to signify feedback. So far, the team have developed 5 types of feedback including bouncing, pulsing, waves, circular motion, and crawling (sensation like dragging your thumb across a surface).The nubs are capable of feeding back the sensation of hitting something (collision feedback), being hit (being shot or punched), crawling along the floor, floating on water, as well as giving directional information too. For example, if you are hit from the right, the right nub will give your thumb a push to inform you where the shot came from.The good news is, because the nubs are so small they can be mounted on to existing controller designs. So the thumbsticks on a DualShock controller could have these nubs added without changing their functionality, and hopefully remaining comfortable for the user to interact with.Microsoft has already been approached and shown the technology, and they want to know more. Tests have also been carried out during this year’s Haptics Symposium, and gamers’ feedback showed the nubs worked even if thumbs are angled on the thumbsticks.The haptic technology will be on show at GDC this week, and is sure to get some interest from hardware manufacturers. Incorporating the tech into controllers is expected to add around $15 to their price. Considering the potential for additional feedback, that may be a price console manufacturers are willing to split with consumers.Read more at Utah University News Center, via BBC News
Last week AMD stole the limelight with the announcement it was moving to a 28nm process for the latest mobile Radeon GPUs. This week, it’s the turn of Nvidia, but with a new high-end card for desktop PCs.Nvidia has unveiled the GeForce GTX 690, a card it classes as the “world’s fastest consumer graphics card.” It’s hard to disagree with that once you’ve glanced at the specs.At the heart of the GTX 690 are not one, but two Kepler GPU cores running at a base clock speed of 915MHz. That translates into 3,072 CUDA cores powering the highest settings in your game of choice, backed up by 4GB of on-board 512-bit GDDR5 memory. To put that in perspective, Nvidia claims that a single GTX 690 outperforms two GTX 680 cards in SLI configuration. Or looking at it another way, if you currently use a GTX 680, the 690 will double your frame rate. Add to that the fact you can SLI two 690s, and the performance on offer is sure to keep your rig playing games on ultra high settings for a few years to come.As well as setting a new high in terms of performance, Nvidia has worked on the heat, noise, and power aspects of the card. The fan housing is manufactured from thixomolded magnesium alloy, which is meant to lower the vibration created as well as aid heat dissipation. Add to that dual vapor chambers and a complimentary nickel-plated finstack, and you can tell this card will have no problems getting rid of the heat from those two hot-running cores. You just need to make sure your case fan setup can keep up.Nvidia has also attempted to minimize power use and heat generation by employing a 10-phase power supply. It uses a 10-layer copper circuit board to ensure efficiency, but also aid quick heat dissipation using that fan and vapor chamber cooling combination. The TDP of this card is 300W.The GTX 690 is expected to be available from May 3, but stock will be very limited. Cards from the usual group of manufacturers are expected to start hitting stores in larger quantities from May 7. Even so, I doubt many people will be able to afford one, let alone two of these cards without hitting their savings. The RRP for the base GTX 690 is $999.Read more at Nvidia and GeForce.com
The number of hardware options available for your next minuscule, PC-powered DIY project has expanded rapidly over the past few months. The ultra-cheap Raspberry Pi maintains its position as the standard bearer, but other boards like the ODROID-X and Cubieboard have popped up with different processor and port options. Now, Via’s offering up another option: the Pico-ITX Epia-P910.It’s slightly larger than the Raspberry Pi (by about two centimeters), and there’s one major difference between the P910 and the others: it’s not built around ARM architecture. Via’s chips are x86 compatible, which makes the P910 capable of running just about any OS you can imagine — from Windows 8 to OS X and Android. It’s also got four cores clocked at 1GHz and a DirectX 11-compatible Chromotion 640 GPU that’s capable of pumping out 3D and 1080p content “flawlessly,” according to Via.Via’s also laid the P910 out like a traditional PC mainboard, with dual USB ports, Ethernet, VGA, and HDMI — and a pair of SATA ports. There’s also an optional expansion board that can be snapped in to add PS/2 ports, six more USB 2.0, two USB 3.0 ports, and audio jacks. In addition to your own internal storage, you’ll also need to bring your own RAM (unlike the ARM devices).And what about the all-important sticker price? Via hasn’t revealed that yet, but with the P910 aimed at embedded systems for use in medical, logistics, and fleet management devices — as well as 3D-capable digital signage — you can safely assume it’s going to cost a lot more than $35. But if it’s compatibility you’re after and price isn’t an issue, this might just be the tiny board for you.More at Via and Liliputing
You can usually tell when someone is wearing a hearing aid by the device sat behind one or both of their ears. But such aids can only help so much. Depending on the level of hearing impairment, conventional aids may not be enough to allow an individual to hear and understand important sounds such as those that form speech.An alternative is to have a hearing implant, but until now the required surgery to fit them has taken several hours, making it unsuitable for the elderly–the group most affected by hearing loss. However, a solution is on the horizon in the form of a new, simple implant that can be fitted as outpatient surgery and could allow better hearing to even the most severe of impairments.The new implant actually consists of three parts. The key implanted part is a 1.2mm electro-acoustic transducer, which is positioned at the so-called “round window,” which is where the middle and inner ear connect. It then produces “amplified mechanical vibrations” that stimulate the auditory nerve. Even though the transducer is tiny, it can reach volumes of up to 120 decibels, meaning even those with severe hearing impairment should experience a major improvement.The other two parts of the implant are a microphone and battery contained in a casing, and the signal and power wireless transmission system that links the transducer and the microphone sections.The image you see above is of the prototype version of the electro-acoustic transducer. The research team at the Fraunhofer Institute already have it working, but say the final version of the transducer will be round rather than square. They also need to select a suitable coating for the implant so it can survive inside the body without degrading or being rejected.The good news is, the final version should be ready to use by next year with each implant expected to function for at least 10 years once in place.
The picture you see above is not, as it might initially seem, art found in a theme park within a space-themed ride designed in the 1960s. It’s a real picture of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, flying across the sky with the moon prominently displayed in the background like some kind of hilarious shirt found on Amazon that became so popular that it has its own Wikipedia page. The photo was snapped during a drop test, which involved the ship being released from a high altitude from a mothership — in this case, the WhiteKnightTwo — and attempting to glide to the ground. It landed safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port, successfully testing the control mechanism that helps provide a smooth flight for the ship as it returns to a below suborbital altitude.These tests have been going on for quite some time now, as Virgin Galactic’s first piloted free flight test took place around three years ago on October 10, 2010.The goal of SpaceShipTwo, aside from being a serious space fight vessel with a funny name, is to essentially begin the consumer-grade commercial space flight industry. A single ticket aboard the flight will run $200,000, so that consumer-grade delineation has a bit of wiggle room. The point of the flight will be to provide passengers with a view of Earth as it looks from space, as well as to allow passengers to experience a brief period of weightlessness.The initial passenger space flights are expected to take off from Spaceport America, located in New Mexico, with which Virgin signed a 20-year lease for a main terminal back in 2008.Though it’s not exactly rocket science (sorry) trying to predict a definite date when the first passenger suborbital space flight will launch, there’s technically no telling when it’ll actually happen. So if you are itching to buy a ticket, you can just find other fun things to do with your veritable mountain of disposable income until then.[image credit]
By AFP Feb 17th 2018, 5:31 PM RUNNING WITH A lacklustre slogan, no programme and refusing to debate his opponents, it sometimes seems like Russian President Vladimir Putin is not campaigning for re-election at all.But it is unlikely to matter for the 65-year-old strongman who is cruising towards victory and a historic fourth Kremlin term in next month’s election, with a result that seems so inevitable analysts are calling it a return to the Soviet era.“Putin is the only candidate without a programme. That is extremely alarming,” said Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center, describing it as “a demonstration of disregard for his people.”As always, Putin has bowed out of debates and has symbolically refused his free television airtime as a candidate.But he already benefits from wall-to-wall news coverage, and Channel One state television has been rebroadcasting Oliver Stone’s four-part documentary about him although it won’t show the last episode until after the vote following a slap on the wrist from the electoral commission.The most visible sign of his campaign are the images of him plastered on billboards along highways outside Moscow under the slogan: “A strong president makes for a strong country.”Generic posters from the Central Electoral Commission urging people to vote are everywhere.Putin’s main task is to ensure a respectable turnout, with state pollsters VTsIOM predicting 80.4% although last time, participation was just over 65%.‘The most meaningless poll’“We have returned to what we had hoped to leave behind after the collapse of Soviet power: ritualistic elections where… the result is pre-programmed,” wrote columnist Fyodor Krasheninnikov in the independent weekly, The New Times.And others agree.“This is the most meaningless of all the presidential polls in Russia, the most lacking in substance,” said Kolesnikov.So far, the most striking moment of Putin’s “campaign” was when he joined millions of Orthodox Christians in plunging into an ice hole wearing swimming trunks for the January’s Epiphany holiday.He has since skipped several events this week after coming down with a rare cold.Functions he has attended have been highly choreographed such as a recent meeting with local mayors, when Putin was choppered in, met with a star-struck few as journalists watched on a screen from another room.Although the numbers planning to vote for him have dipped from last year’s high of 76.9%, Putin still commands 71.5% of support, VTsIOM figures show.For pro-Kremlin observers, Putin’s campaign is laying the ground for his future term and eschewing stunts that would only gain him a few points in the election.“We see real hands-on work that has significantly greater results than populist fussing around for the sake of an extra one to two percent in elections,” said Nikolai Kalmykov of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.Colourful castWith opposition leader Alexei Navalny barred from standing due to a fraud conviction, he is urging his supporters – many of them young – to boycott the polls.The latest VTsIOM polls suggest the lowest turnout is likely to be among 18 to 24-year-olds.Among those running against Putin are two new colourful characters who may have a political future ahead of them.Ksenia Sobchak, a former reality show host turned liberal journalist, is standing on a “none of the above” ticket and has called for Navalny to be allowed on the ballot.While she is forecast to come a distant fourth, this outspoken daughter of Saint Petersburg’s former mayor – Putin’s political mentor – is one of the few people who doesn’t fear him, and sparks could fly if they were to meet.Another is debonair businessman Pavel Grudinin, the little-known director of an agribusiness who was chosen as the Communist candidate in December after veteran leader Gennady Zyuganov chose not to stand.The moustachioed 57-year-old businessman, who has praised Stalin, scored well in early polls, prompting a wave of negative coverage from state and pro-Kremlin media over fears he could do better than planned, observers said.If the vote were held today, he would win 7.3%, polls show.“There is a campaign and it does have an element of intrigue… Sobchak and Grudinin,” said Kolesnikov, who said the polls would test Sobchak’s potential for leading a liberal party and Grudinin’s to take over from Zyuganov.© – AFP, 2018Read: ‘Stunningly brazen’: Trump criticised for refusing to release Democrat memo on Russia probeRead: CIA chief: Russia will target 2018 elections No manifesto, no programme, no debates – but Putin is cruising towards another election victory It is highly unlikely that Putin will be unseated this time round. Image: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP Saturday 17 Feb 2018, 5:30 PM https://jrnl.ie/3855177 90 Comments Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking during a meeting of the Russia’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Image: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP 11,071 Views Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking during a meeting of the Russia’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Share158 Tweet Email Short URL Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this article
RTÉ’s George Lee on emigration, climate change and the Dáil’s ‘power game’ We spoke to George Lee about his new documentary on Irish expats in Hong Kong – and if the Dáil should be doing something to make Ireland a more attractive place to live and work. Sunday 27 Nov 2016, 1:00 PM 30 Comments Nov 27th 2016, 1:00 PM Share89 Tweet Email1 Source: Better Off Abroad/ScreengrabAlthough augmented by the most recent economic crash, Irish emigration isn’t a new phenomenon. But Lee says that this year in particular has made emigrations “an issue of our time” which warrants a closer look to inform others, as well as satisfy our own curiosity.“How many of your friends live or have lived abroad? There are an awful lot of Irish people who have gone abroad and a lot of Irish people who’ve thought about it. It’s intriguing to find out what kind of lives they have led.”He says that although there’s a strong case for people to stay at home, that there’s “a kind of fascination” with the subject of emigration and it’s not just for the young:“We mostly spoke to people in their 40s who said they’d give it a go – which is really interesting, as there’s a perception that emigration is for young people who are only interested in a good time and will move on home afterwards. People can be idealistic about what the Dáil should be. I was, but I’ve learnt that the Dáil is purely about power. Maybe people are expecting too much in terms of what the Dáil should be, but no matter what you do about changing it – it is a game about power.“My experience is, it’s not a place for idealists.”So is it difficult to watch Enda Kenny and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan talk to Trump about issues such as Irish immigration, an issue he’s clearly interested in, and not get involved? Short URL Source: RollingNews.ieSAY WHAT YOU like about George Lee (and he does have his critics, particularly after his stint in the Dáil) there’s no denying he’s passionate about the subjects he tackles.After working for the Central Bank and as a senior economist at a stockbrokers, Lee grew to fame as an economics correspondent for RTÉ, tearing apart the economic policies that lead to the Celtic Tiger collapse in his programme How We Blew the Boom.In a move that raised a lot of eyebrows and received a lot of attention, Lee left RTÉ and joined Fine Gael running for office in Dublin South in the 2009 general election.He was labelled a ‘celebrity’ candidate, and topped the poll comfortably – beating his nearest opponent, Labour’s Alex White, by over 15,000 votes.In equally dramatic a fashion, after almost nine months as a TD, Lee resigned from both the Dáil and Fine Gael – saying he was disillusioned with the process, and was appointed to roles “without my consultation whatsoever” (more on that later).As Lee’s brush with politics was during a leave of absence from RTÉ, he returned to the station to his high-salary – but not to the same politically-charged role as their economics expert.Now he takes on the neutral task of Agriculture and Environment correspondent, putting both his farming background and passion for the environment to use.Lee also has a great admiration for the resilience of the Irish people, and says that it is due to their efforts – and not politicians – that Ireland has recovered as much as it has.In the new documentary Better Off Abroad, he explores a different type of resilience, taking a look at what people endure when they emigrate, and gaining an insight into a subject that he says fascinates people:“What kind of jobs [do they have], what kind of lifestyle? [We want] to experience and bring back what it’s like to be an Irish expat,” he says.Better Off Abroad? Source: Screenshot/Better Off AbroadThe series Better Off Abroad looks at Irish people in different cities, and different jobs across the world, travelling to places like California and Dubai to speak with the area’s Irish immigrants.In the episode to be released this evening, Lee travels to Hong Kong to explore the good, as well as the bad of living in a city with a unique political position.“There’s a lot they have to turn a blind eye to,” says Lee. “Hong Kong is a flashy city with a lot of people in a very small area, it’s very fast-paced and wickedly expensive for property. Then there’s the pollution, the traffic, the constant movement. 12,927 Views I spoke to another guy who was very, very very well-off, he lived in one of the stockbroker belts and one of the things he said was: ‘The English don’t quite let you in – they’re tolerant, but different’. Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this article I don’t find it the slightest bit difficult in separating myself. I put it in the context of what it is, they must do their job, I think my view won’t have any impact on what they do. I don’t think that’s the reality. I think people are always interested in better opportunities.But the fact that so many people feel they have to leave Ireland for better opportunities elsewhere, does that represent a failure on behalf of our politicians, and if so, how should we change the Dáil to change that?Realpolitik The night George Lee was elected in 2009. Source: RollingNews.ie“I have experience with the Dáil,” says Lee. I don’t think the general view of ordinary people and constituents matters in their dealings about how they deal with Trump or otherwise.“I’m a little bit wised up in relation to what to expect and I’m more informed than ever. I just see what it is – it’s politics, and politics is about power. It’s not about what you think it is.” Source: RollingNews.ieAs skeptical as all of that sounds, Lee seems to reserve all hope he has for Ireland’s future:“I think there are great things about Ireland and sometimes we forget it. Source: RollingNews.ieClimate change is the next big thing in George Lee’s sights. As RTÉ’s agricultural and environment correspondent, he’s supportive of electric cars as one of many efforts to combat climate change.“Climate change it is one of the biggest issues of our generation. It’s such a massive challenge.“We didn’t know about these things when I was a kid, when I was a boy.“I remember looking at burning rubbish in back gardens or places where I worked and I remember thinking, even as a little kid: ‘Where does the smoke go?’“You know, you throw a tyre on and the fire and black smoke goes into the sky and [someone says] ‘Oh you know it just goes up into the sky’.“But we know better now, and there is a limit to what you can put up there. There are challenges and it’s not necessarily our fault, but there are changes we can make, and even though there’s a huge way to go, I think it’s worthwhile.“I think that’s something my kids, your kids, they won’t thank us for ignoring it.”Better Off Abroad airs tonight at 9.30pm. Source: RTÉ – IRELAND’S NATIONAL PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA/YouTubeRead: RTÉ staff say decision to cut children’s programme making was ‘bolt from the blue’Read: George Lee, RTÉ’s new Agriculture Correspondent: Both my parents are from farms I don’t want to fall into anybody’s support trap, but Ireland has gone under the most extraordinary recovery. This country is under sold, it’s not discussed, it’s under appreciated.“I can’t think of any other country which went into total meltdown, the likes of which we were in the middle of before and have come out of it so fast, so quickly, and we don’t talk about that.“And I think we should talk about it is because it gives us great hope… a good strong reason to be hopeful for the future.”He also acknowledges that not everyone has felt the recovery – a point emphasised by the last election, which punished Fine Gael for their slogan ‘Keep the Recovery Going’ for being out of tune with the experiences of a lot of voters.“Cleary at the moment, people are still angry. I was so angry I went into the Dáil, so I’ve experienced and felt all of those things.“There are an awful lot of places which haven’t felt the recovery and will never be the same again, but there are good things happening and there are people doing good things.” http://jrnl.ie/3102731 By Gráinne Ní Aodha I don’t think politicians keep the country going. But the other side of that is the good pay, the career opportunities, and no sale tax and an income tax of 8%. So it’s a mixed bag, but most people we met were very happy.He says that the pace of life in Hong Kong also poses its challenges and that people should expect to work long, hard hours if they’re to make the move.“If you’re going there without good skills or good connections you’d be pretty miserable.”He also says that people should be careful in assuming that emigrating to London (another city the series has looked at) “is a doddle” – saying that they have a very different culture, society and political system.“One of the people I came across that impressed me was the head butler in the Savoy, who’s a very outwardly person and could talk to anybody, a natural gab.“And he describes coming to work in the morning – they all get on the train, everyone looks at the ground, nobody looks at each other, nobody speaks with each other. He doesn’t know the names of his neighbours on one side of his home, even though he’s lived in his place for a long time.